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The Erotic Guide to London: From the Flames – BDSM in Camberwell

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1 Minute Read

‘What do you think?’ says Anne, 50, slim with shoulder length dirty blonde hair cut into a chic, rakish bob. She’s my favourite partner for naughty nights out, always up for a bit of fun. She’s holding up a micro, Brazilian bikini that stretches the meaning of the word. It’s made of two, tiny black triangles held together with thin strands of green string.

‘No,’ I say. ‘I prefer the gold 70s dress you just showed me. Or maybe the gold knickers and the star nipple pasties?’

‘Or maybe both?’ she says, smiling, a twinkle in her eye. ‘I can start with the dress and then take it off if I get too warm.’ We all agree this seems a very sensible idea.

Kat, meanwhile, is changing into a fishnet, long sleeved leotard with a pair of flowery knickers underneath, her nod to the ‘tropical theme’ of the evening. She’s German, late 30’s, attractive with brown, spiky hair and a handsome face.

My legs and armpits have been shaved. My toe and fingernails have been painted baby blue. Hair washed and tonged into soft curls, it only remains for me to put on my costume, in this case a tribal printed string bikini, black fishnet dress and high, gold wedged sandals topped off with a turquoise blue straw cowboy hat. The plan is to catch an Uber to Camberwell around 10.45pm, arriving at Totally Tropical Taste around 11.30pm, when the fetish club should be in full flow.

I’m not exactly a newbie when it comes to BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadomasochism) but unlike many on the scene, I don’t like pain. I’m scared of needles and I’m only comfortable with being spanked or flogged by an experienced ‘master’. I learnt that after a couple of trips to Torture Garden where, after having my BDSM cherry popped at the hands of an experienced Dom skilled with a flogger, I came to understand the fine line between pain and pleasure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since then about anything that involves even the remote possibility of getting hurt, it’s best to bring in the BDSM geeks, the guys who know the merits of one implement over another and are experts at using them.

Silver is such a guy. We met at a Kinky Salon party and, since then, have continued our relationship via Facebook. He’s in his 50s, tall, slim, with grey, spiky hair and a small, silver earring in one ear and looks like a cross between a beatnik poet and a rock star. He also happens to be a Dom. ‘Get off the Internet and come meet some people in the real world,’ he’d suggested when I told him about my failed attempts to meet anyone interesting on OKCupid. ‘There’s a club night going on in Camberwell called Totally Tropical Taste and they’ll be some really cool people there. I’ll put you and a plus one on the guest list.’

So here we are, three chicks at the door of a converted pub turned nightclub tucked away on a back street in Camberwell. It’s nearly midnight and there’s a small but very colourful, mixed crowd already there. A DJ is playing techno music in the bar area and there’s a woman, who was/is a man, at the bar wearing a white pencil skirt with flowers on it. I scan my eyes across the room and spot a woman in a tiny, rubber yellow bikini with a blow-up parrot tied to her shoulder. A black guy in a 70s floral dress wearing a hat composed of palm leaves is dancing with his 6’5” stick thin boyfriend, his face covered with a ‘batoola’, the black eye mask typically worn by older Bedouin women. A peach coloured handbag is slung over his shoulder matching his high-heeled ankle boots. A few guys have tried to spoil the costume party by wearing their street clothes but, thankfully, are in the minority. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

Around one, the fun and games kick off. Helen, the club’s hostess, is urging people onto the dance floor for the start of the Flame Games, the club’s own alternative Olympics. Anne is delighted to win the pin-the-banana on the monkey competition. Next there’s a game of let’s-see-who-can-hold-a-coconut-between-your-legs-the-longest-while-dancing. The prize is an expensive vibrator. A tall guy in striped shorts and a tight t-shirt is going head to head against a woman in heels and a rubber dress. I sit on a stool watching from the sidelines. I’m more interested in what’s going on in the dungeon, hidden in the club’s basement down a steep flight of steps.

I make my way carefully down each step in my high heels, careful not to trip, until I reach a large dance floor. I spot Silver at the door of another room. I walk over to him and, standing at the entrance, peek in. I can see a king size gothic style bed covered with a red vinyl sheet, a spanking bench and steel St. Andrew’s cross. The room is also completely empty. My disappointment is palpable.

‘Where’s the people? Where’s the flogger?’ I ask Silver, who reveals himself to be the dungeon’s gatekeeper. ‘They’re coming, they’re coming,’ he promises, somewhat unconvincibly. ‘But, in the meantime, there’s always this,’ he says raising his right hand, palm facing outward. Faced with the prospect of not being flogged or being spanked, the choice has already been made for me.

‘OK,’ I say, moving over to the St. Andrew’s cross. ‘But don’t be too hard on me.’

‘Not there,’ he says. ‘It’s too wobbly. Bend over that.’ He points to the bench.

I take up my position on the bench, leaning over it bending until my hands touch the floor, my bum covered by the string bikini and fishnet dress. He stands behind me and gently pats my bum, gradually getting harder, my bum getting warmer and warmer until I feel the sharp sting of his slap and the pleasure that follows. He bends over and whispers in my ear, ‘Good girl.’ It’s an incredible turn-on. Then he slows down, moving his hands gently across my bottom and down my back, tenderly. He varies the pressure from spanking to stroking until my bum cheeks are on fire and I’m experiencing a mini flood of endorphins. After ten minutes I stand up. I’ve had enough. ‘Don’t I get a kiss?’ says Silver. Our tongues meet, the fuzziness in my brain switched up a notch or two. At that point, I would have done anything he asked me to.

I stand up and a little crowd has gathered at the entrance to the dungeon room. It turns out they’d been watching all along. I’m fine with that. Being watched comes with the territory at a club where everyone is an exhibitionist of one sort or another. Arriving home at 4am, I jump in the shower, grabbing a bottle of Aloe Vera on the way to soothe the red blotches and streaks that have formed on my behind. It’s an altogether pleasing end to a fabulous party.

From the Flames is taking a break until next year.

About Suzanne Portnoy

Suzanne Portnoy is the author of the best-selling explicit memoir The Butcher, The Baker, the Candlestick Maker: An Erotic Memoir (Random House, 2006), The Not-So-Invisible Woman (Random House, 2008) and the play Looser Women, which was performed in 2011 at the Edinburgh Festival.

The book charts her journey through a sexually liberated youth, largely sexless marriage then divorce and pursuit of a lifestyle of multiple partners, group sex, loss of someone close and being mother to two children. Parallels can perhaps be drawn with The Sexual Life of Catherine M., at least in terms of its honest approach and graphic detail.

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